The Phi Kappa Tau house, located at 106 The Knoll, was recently named the first fraternity or sorority house in New York State to use New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s comprehensive energy assessment, known as Home Performance with ENERGYSTAR. Improvements to the house will save Phi Kappa Tau approximately $1,100 per year in energy costs.The Phi Kappa Tau house was drafty and uncomfortable for its residents. Paul Martorano, president of Phi Sigma Delta said. He knew that work needed to be done and realized that through a New York State program such as Home Performance with Energystar, the fraternity could improve the energy efficiency of the house while saving money.
Owned and operated by Phi Delta Sigma, the alumni association of Phi Kappa Tau, the Phi Kappa Tau house was made more energy-efficient with the help of ASI Energy of Ithaca, a local contracting company that works with NYSERDA.
“It was a joint effort [between ASI and Phi Delta Sigma] going forward- I knew it was an old house and there was a lot of room for improvement with the insulation, and hiring ASI to do an energy audit would help us determine where to pinpoint our efforts,” Martorano said.
Herbert Dwyer, President and CEO of ASI Energy of Ithaca, noted that because the project was a state program, there were many policies and procedures for ASI to follow. “The state wanted to make sure that the building was done right so that it could be used as an iconic project,” Dwyer said.
To determine where energy conservation improvements could be made, ASI Energy of Ithaca depressurized the building, consulted thermal images, and used computer models and as HVAC diagnostic tools.
Renovations to the house included the installment of cellulose insulation in the exterior walls of the building as well as more air-tight doors and windows. Such changes reduce heat loss, making the house more comfortable for its residents. In addition, the boiler was cleaned and adjusted to maximize its efficiency.
For many home and building owners such as Martorano, financial incentives are a key factor in determining the types of renovations that should be implemented.
“Financial incentives are not the most effective way to get people thinking about energy conservation, but they may be the most effective way to get people to act,” said Dwyer.
While the main goal of the project was to improve the comfort of the house, Martorano stated that “these [energy conservation] improvements are a value [of Phi Tau]. As a fraternity on campus, we could lead the way with implementing these changes. We realized we could save money on work we wanted done on the house through this program, while at the same time upholding the ideals [of the fraternity].”
“Phi Kappa Tau are early adopters in the energy world. They are taking a leadership stance with this and are willing to take a risk because they understand the math and science behind it,” Dwyer stated.
Travis Apgar, associate dean of students, explained that sustainability initiatives in the Greek system, such as Greeks Go Green, have been around for years, but that Phi Kappa Tau’s comprehensive energy analysis and renovations are especially notable.
Robert Bland, office of sustainability, said he hopes Phi Tau’s efforts motivate other fraternities and sororities to think about their energy consumption and waste.
“Regardless of whether they are part of our carbon footprint of the university ... we are all about reducing energy demand and we certainly encourage fraternities and sororities to do that also,” said Bland.
In the five years since Apgar began his work at Cornell, he has seen a rise in sustainability and energy conservation efforts.
“The [Ithaca] community around us, as well as Cornell students, are already very environmentally aware ... and I suspect we will continue to see these types of efforts,” Apgar said.